Each step by John Banks bites off a chunk of pavement. He walks like he talks. Short. Staccato. Bites. Which. Leave. Little. Room. For. Confusion.

In Epsom, anything which reduces confusion is welcome.

This is the electorate where the Labour candidate secretly wants the National candidate to win. The National candidate doesn't really want to win the seat, which is so blue ribbon it should be marked on the map with a party rosette.

Instead, National's Paul Goldsmith wants Banks to take it for Act. He can't really say that, but if Banks wins then Act's piffling vote from across the country might just give it another two MPs. The fruits of Goldsmith's failure would then give National a much-needed coalition partner.


So, Banks is stalking the streets of Epsom, drumming up support. "It's not a contest between National and Labour. It's a race between the National Party and their allies and the Labour Party and their allies.

The former Auckland mayor is intensely vigorous, as always. Sharply dressed, as always. Sharp, as always.

"The Labour Party is running the city. We don't want them running the country," he tells Remuera Fisheries owner Bob Lovett, leaning over the counter. The fish and chips are good here, but Banks isn't stopping to eat.

Banks is running now. Running for Epsom. Running for Parliament.

"Never in 14 elections have I been so well received," he says. "This is very blue country and they are very friendly."

Banks pauses. He has mis-spoken. He has forgotten what he is doing here. He is life-long National Party to the core before re-inventing himself as an Act candidate a few months ago. "Or should we say yellow country." Pause. "Or blue and yellow."

Back on to the street, the most youthful of the old campaigners. Step. Step. Engage. Speak. Shake. Step. Step.

A delight of Banks is his mad humour. He stops at a shop selling a large painted iron duck hammered out of a 40-gallon drum. "Someone ring my phone. Ring my phone. Someone. My phone. Ring." Banks gets behind the duck, beaming at the joke. He holds his phone next to it. When the call comes through, his phone quacks.


Right, that was funny. Let's go. March. Shake. Hello. Step. "We don't slow down," Banks says of himself. "I haven't got time to slow down. I've got so much I want to achieve with my life. I'd have to live to 120."

He was Minister of Police once. He may be a minister again. "I'm not going there to bounce dead cats. Everyone who goes to Parliament wants to be a minister. Being a minister means you can make a defining difference."

Banks marches off leaving Act president Chris Simmons and candidate David Seymour in his wake. He's been traipsing them around Epsom introducing them as the younger face of Act.

Seymour isn't so sure Banks will achieve the longevity he seeks. He says his presence is because Banks is introducing fresh faces for the party's future. "He's not going to be around in 2050," Seymour explains. "I will be."

An older gentleman tries to weave through the cavalcade. He trips on a fire hydrant sign, which gleams freshly-painted gold from the footpath. Seymour lunges to help: "Shit, shit, shit, shit. Jesus Christ."

Simmons thinks he's identified the cause: "Was the yellow paint slippery?" Remuera is a shock of yellow. The fire hydrant cover. The Act Party signs. Banks' car at the kerb along the street. It's all yellow.


The gentleman picks himself up. He avoids Act's helping hand and scuttles away.

BANKS SAYS he was near Alexandra Park Raceway. "I heard a 'whoosh'. I turned to look and it was a parachute ... it was David Parker being parachuted in from Dunedin."

Parker is the straight man in the madness of Epsom. "I'm not playing games. I'm saying vote Labour. Vote for me."

He is touted as a future Labour leader. Here, if you ask about local issues, he speaks nationally. If you speak nationally, he references historically. Epsom is a soapbox for ambition, in a quietly spoken sort of way.

"This has proved to be a wonderful forum for me to present to the voters of the nation how we are different from Act and National."

If it weren't that he wants most of his wealthy constituents to pay more tax, some might even vote for him. Even then, he is just a few points away from Banks in the polls.


IT'S ODD watching Goldsmith campaign. He is is self-effacing in his approach to potential voters and not naturally given to self-promotion. Perhaps he's concerned someone will vote for him.

We meet around the corner from Broadway, the main shopping stretch in Newmarket. He zips out along the main street. We do one block, there and back. "I'm working very hard for the party vote," he says.

On one street he canvassed, a Labour voter says they haven't seen Goldsmith but plan to vote for him: "We've got to keep Banks out."

That's three votes Goldsmith can count on. Prime Minister John Key, who lives Parnell, caused a minor fuss when he declared he would vote for Goldsmith.

And Goldsmith? "I'm going to vote for myself. You'd feel like a bit of a ...".

He was asked at an electorate debate if he wanted to be the MP for Epsom. He replied: "I want to be an MP in Epsom." He adds: "It is what I achieve one way or another." At 39 on the National Party list, Goldsmith would have to do far worse than sound complacent to miss out on getting elected.


He has spoken to Epsom people and they have answered. It is statistically the wealthiest electorate in the country. "But they don't want to be a little island of prosperity in a country that's falling off the pace. They are worrying about the rising cost of living."

There is the overlap with Auckland Grammar and Epsom Girls Grammar, he says. "They have had to spend a lot on housing to move into the zone. You shouldn't assume everyone here is financially well-off."

It's hard to know why Goldsmith is going to Wellington. He has a lovely life in Remuera. There are four children with wife Melissa and a career writing books. He once wrote Banks' biography. Auckland Libraries has 13 copies of it. Currently, every single one is available for readers, none lent out.

Goldsmith is charming and nice but woefully unaware at times. Naming his favourite places in the electorate, he nominates One Tree Hill.

Unfortunately, it's outside his electorate.

In any other electorate, an own goal of this sort would be catastrophic. In Epsom, though, it might be a tactical foul.